PITTSBURGH (AP) — Former Republican state Sen. Jane Orie will be released from state prison on Sunday, barely 20 months after she was sentenced for using her taxpayer-funded legislative staff to do campaign work and forging defense exhibits to try to cover it up, her attorney said Thursday.
“She’s being released Sunday and it’s a day that’s been long awaited for by her and her family,” Orie’s attorney, William Costopoulos, told The Associated Press.
Orie, 52, was sentenced in June 2012 to 2½ to 10 years in prison by an Allegheny County judge. But she’ll be out Sunday because of credit for good time and a rule that let her serve just 75 percent of her minimum term because she’s a non-violent criminal who isn’t likely to reoffend.
Orie has served her sentence at the State Correctional Institution-Cambridge Springs, about 100 miles north of Pittsburgh’s North Hills suburbs where she’ll return to live with her father, a retired physician.
“During her tour there she’s done a lot of good things for others, which has been her calling and mission,” Costopoulos said, including teaching and helping other inmates to receive their general education diplomas, or GEDs.
“I’ve been told they’re going to miss her up there as an institution, but she’s going home Sunday and is very much looking forward to going home Sunday,” Costopoulos said.
Orie’s release comes as the appeal of her conviction and sentence is still pending before the Superior Court. The case was argued in Harrisburg on Dec. 10, but a ruling isn’t expected for months, Costopoulos said.
Despite having already served her sentence, Orie still has something at stake, Costopoulos said.
“It would go a long way to restoring something that is very important to her, her reputation,” he said. “I also believe her (state) pension would re-vest and I believe she would be eligible — not that she would exercise her right — to run for office again.”
Orie was convicted on 14 counts of theft of services, conflict of interest, and forgery. The forgery charges stemmed from documents she and Costopoulos introduced at her first trial in March 2011, which caused the judge to declare a mistrial after he determined they were forged and unfairly used to discredit a key witness.
The non-forgery charges stemmed from using her state-funded legislative staff to perform campaign work for herself and a sister, former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
Melvin, 57, was later charged separately and convicted in May of using her own Superior Court staffers to run her 2003 and 2009 campaigns for the Supreme Court. Melvin lost in 2003 but was elected to the state’s highest bench in November 2009, mere days after district attorney’s detectives raided Orie’s Senate offices after an intern blew the whistle on the illegal campaigning by Orie’s staff.
Melvin has since been removed from the court and was sentenced to three years’ house arrest and other penalties, but that’s been suspended while she, too, appeals her conviction to the Superior Court.
Melvin was acquitted of charges that she conspired with Orie to have the Senate staffers work on her judicial campaigns.